- Metro-North train crash spurs calls for mandatory crash-prevention devices. Think twice [Steve Chapman]
- BP sues attorney Mikal Watts [Insurance Journal] Exaggerated Gulf-spill claims as a business ethics issue [Legal NewsLine]
- Pot-war fan: “Freedom also means the right not to be subjected to a product I consider immoral” [one of several Baltimore Sun letters to the editor in reaction to my piece on marijuana legalization, and Gregory Kline’s response]
- Aaron Powell, The Humble Case for Liberty [Libertarianism.org]
- Allegation: lawprof borrowed a lot of his expert witness report from Wikipedia [Above the Law]
- Frivolous “sovereign citizen” lawsuits on rise in southern Jersey [New Jersey Law Journal, earlier]
- Star of Hitchcock avian thriller had filed legal malpractice action: “Tippi Hedren wins $1.5 million in bird-related law suit” [Telegraph]
- Feds investigating prominent Texas attorney and many-time Overlawyered mentionee Mikal Watts [MySanAntonio via PoL]
- Florida high court: lawyers not privileged to defame parties during informal witness questioning [Delmonico v. Traynor]
- Client’s story: not only did attorney try to kill me, he also gave me bad advice [Lowering the Bar]
- Some lawyers for city of Cleveland seek union representation, following municipal attorneys in S.F., D.C. and Houston [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
- Watch what you say about lawyers, part CLXXVI [NYLJ, “shakedown”]
- Former ATLA president Barry Nace fights disciplinary proceeding in W.V. [Chamber-backed WV Record]
- Minnesota lawyer who billed client for time he spent having sex with her won’t be allowed to practice for more than a year [TheLawNet, earlier on this candidate for “ultimate Overlawyered story”]
- Should she take the job offer from an apparently unethical attorney? If she has to ask… [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]
- Seeking to address widespread pharmaceutical shortages, Obama executive order downplays government role in causing them [Fair Warning, WSJ editorial, earlier here, here, here, here, etc.]
- “The school has a strict no-hugging policy….” [WKMG Orlando]
- Retired Justice John Paul Stevens isn’t buying the “Thomas should recuse” meme [USA Today via Legal Ethics Forum]
- Not COPPA-cetic: among other unintended consequences, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act has encouraged parents to help kids to falsify ages online [Danah Boyd via Jim Harper, Suderman, Reason, Stewart Baker, earlier]
- Lawmaking from the bench: Maryland high court strikes down law limiting landlords’ lead paint liability [Ronald Miller] “Maryland court sides with plaintiffs in slip-and-fall cases” [Emily Babay, Examiner]
- Trial lawyers help bail out Bexar County Democratic party [San Antonio Express-News]
- Supreme Court agrees to hear case arguing that aggressive enforcement of local housing code violates federal Fair Housing Act [Magner v. Gallagher, SCOTUSBlog, Illinois Municipal League, Daniel Fisher, Inverse Condemnation]
Campbell Robertson and John Schwartz of the New York Times find that many Vietnamese-Americans who are listed as law firm clients in the BP Transocean spill proceedings would rather not be law firm clients. “Like [Tim] Nguyen, some maintain that they never signed up with lawyers, but found that claims had been filed on their behalf (about 50 people have made formal complaints to the claims facility along these lines).” Nguyen found himself a client of lawyer Mikal Watts, “and to his further surprise, as a Louisiana shrimper rather than a Mississippi shipyard worker.” Watts, a big-league Texas tort lawyer, has reported having 43,000 spill clients, many mass-recruited from minority and poorer communities; he says he has a “signed contingency-fee contract with every client,” and that he has released clients who changed their mind about representation. “People familiar with the claims process [of one 26,000-claimant subgroup] said nearly every submission was listed as a deckhand with identical earnings.” Watts says the claims fund, administered by Kenneth Feinberg, has kept changing the documentation it asks for.
- Nastygrams fly at Christmas time over display and festival use of “Jingle Bells”, Grinch, etc. [Elefant]
- Claims that smoking ban led to instantaneous plunge in cardiac deaths in Scotland turns out to be as fishy as similar claims elsewhere [Siegel on tobacco via Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”]
- Myths about the costs and consequences of an automaker Chapter 11 filing [Andrew Grossman, Heritage; Boudreaux, WSJ] Drowning in mandates and Congress throws them an anchor [Jenkins, WSJ]
- Mikal Watts may be the most generous of the trial lawyers bankrolling the Texas Democratic Party’s recent comeback [Texas Watchdog via Pero]
- Disney settles ADA suit demanding Segway access at Florida theme parks “by agreeing to provide disabled guests with at least 15 newly-designed four-wheeled vehicles.” [OnPoint News, earlier]
- Update on Scientology efforts to prevent resale of its “e-meter” devices on eBay [Coleman]
- Scary: business-bashing lawprof Frank Pasquale wants the federal government to regulate Google’s search algorithm [Concurring Opinions, SSRN]
- Kind of an endowment all by itself: “Princeton is providing $40 million to pay the legal fees of the Robertson family” (after charges of endowment misuse) [MindingTheCampus]
- John Ritter’s family has already received $14 million in settlements, seeking $67 million more in medical malpractice litigation for ER failure to diagnose rare heart condition. Dr. R.W. Donnell thinks they’re wrong. [LA Times; USA Today; Kevin MD; Turkewitz; Overlawyered Sep. 2004]
- Speaking of the celebrity bonus in litigation: as M.E. e-mailed me, “Cheek rides again”; Wesley Snipes acquitted of tax felonies, though convicted of misdemeanors, and still on the hook for $17 million in taxes plus penalties. [NY Times; earlier]
- California AG Jerry Brown continuing bogus carbon dioxide “public nuisance” lawsuit against automakers [Stirling & Sandefur @ Investor’s Business Daily; earlier]
- Words-only criminal obscenity prosecution. [WSJ Law Blog (and farewell to Peter Lattman)]
- In the category of gambits we’re sympathetic to, but are unlikely to succeed: East Texas burger restaurant tries mandatory-arbitration-by-posted-window-notice [TortsProf]
- Mikal Watts puff piece [Corpus Christi Caller-Times]
The San Antonio trial lawyer and Democratic donor says he’s realized he’d like to spend more time with his family. Surely it couldn’t have had anything to do with controversies like the ones covered here or here or here. (Peggy Fikac, “Watts ends bid for Democratic Senate nomination”, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 23).
Looks as if the legal tactics of one politically ambitious Texas plaintiff’s lawyer may have blown up in his face:
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mikal Watts of San Antonio once tried to pressure a legal opponent into a $60 million personal injury lawsuit settlement by claiming he would have an advantage on appeal because of his firm’s “heavy” campaign financial support to an appellate court’s justices, “all of whom are good Democrats.”
A “nine-page letter Watts wrote to opposing counsel in 2001 apparently was intended to make an out-of-state corporation think the donations could sway” the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi. The letter was sent to a defense lawyer representing American Electric Power in an auto-accident case. “Politely put, south Texas venue by itself makes this a very dangerous lawsuit,” Watts wrote.
What made the letter unusual was the linking of campaign contributions to sitting justices and the potential of an appeal.
The letter then noted that if the case went to appeal, it would go to the 13th Court of Appeals.
“This court is comprised of six justices, all of whom are good Democrats,” Watts wrote. “The Chief Justice, Hon. Rogelio Valdez, was recently elected with our firm’s heavy support, and is a man who believes in the sanctity of jury verdicts.”
The letter goes on to name Justices Errlinda Castillo, Nelda Rodriguez, J. Bonner Dorsey, Federico Hinojosa and Linda Yanez, and says his firm also has financially supported them. Hinojosa, Castillo and Dorsey are no longer on the court.
“Justice Bonner Dorsey, is more conservative than the others, but has been a friend of mine and the sanctity of jury verdicts for many years,” Watts wrote.
Watts and his law firm in 1999 donated $5,000 to Valdez and $2,500 to Rodriguez; in 2000, $15,000 to Hinojosa; and in January 2001, $10,000 to Castillo. The firm donated $50,000 to Yanez in 2002.
(R. G. Ratcliffe, “Senate candidate played up contributions to justices”, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 5; “Watts’ letter shows judicial reform need” (editorial), San Antonio Express-News, Sept. 15; PrairiePundit, Sept. 7 (quoting Houston Chronicle editorial that’s now offline)).
Blog reaction among both Texans and Democrats has been overwhelmingly negative. “This is bad,” writes the eponymous Kos at Daily Kos. Similarly: Burnt Orange Report, Urban Grounds, Eye on Williamson, Doing My Part for the Left, Capitol Annex. For links to some of our coverage of Watts’s colorful courtroom exploits over the years, see Jun. 9. As a matter of fact, Ted covered Watts’ eye-opening demand letter in a Point of Law post of Nov. 2, 2005.
- More critics pile onto new Medicare “we won’t pay for errors” policy [Orac, Chris Rangel, Universal Health, MedPundit; earlier; plus KevinMD]
- Wisconsin lawmaker wants to address perceived lawyer oversupply by cutting funding to the state’s law school [NLJ]
- What would great authors of Britain’s past have thought of pub smoking ban? [AN Wilson, Telegraph; one response; more]
- As Texas trial lawyer Mikal Watts gears up Senate run, his GOP critics turn for ammunition to a certain website [ChronBlog via Half Empty]
- Holder in due course? Pa. man has left fragrant ethical trail buying up bounced checks and demanding their payment in court [NJLJ]
- One reason for slow adoption of electronic medical records: docs’ fear of wider malpractice exposure [Medical Economics via KevinMD]
- “He knows there is irony in a criminal defense attorney being driven out of the city because of crime” [Baltimore Sun]
- More evidence that Endangered Species Act perversely encourages landowners to make their habitat inhospitable [Adler @ Volokh]
- If you recognize one of your hospital patients as a wanted fugitive, don’t let HIPAA keep you from calling cops [MedRants first, second post]
- Teenager may face year in jail for recording 20-second movie clip [Wired “Gadget Lab” via Harsanyi and Reynolds]
- Behind a judge’s order that GM pay $1.2 billion over a drunk driver’s crash [eight years ago at Overlawyered; case’s eventual settlement]
- Can’t possibly be true: Tampa man sentenced to 25 years for possession of pills for which he had a legal prescription [Balko, Hit and Run]
- Plaintiff’s lawyers “viewed [Sen. Fred Thompson] as someone we could work with” and gave to his campaigns, but they can’t be pleased by his kind words for Texas malpractice-suit curbs [Washington Post, Lattman; disclaimer]
- Pace U. student arrested on hate crime charges after desecrating Koran stolen from college [Newsday; Volokh, more; Hitchens]
- Little-used Rhode Island law allows married person to act as spouse’s attorney, which certainly has brought complications to the divorce of Daniel and Denise Chaput from Pawtucket [Providence Journal]
- Lott v. Levitt defamation suit kinda-sorta settles, it looks like [Adler @ Volokh]
- Trial lawyer Mikal Watts not bowling ’em over yet in expected challenge to Texas Sen. Cornyn [Rothenberg, Roll Call, sub-only via Lopez @ NRO]
- Frankly collusive: after Minnesota car crash, parents arrange to have their injured son sue them for negligence [OnPoint News]
- Canadian bar hot and bothered over Maclean’s cover story slamming profession’s ethics [Macleans blog]
- Five Democratic candidates (Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Richardson) auditioned at the trial lawyers’ convention earlier this month in Chicago [NYSun]
- Donald Boudreaux’s theory as to why Prohibition ended when it did [Pittsburgh Trib-Rev via Murray @ NRO]
- Speaker of Alaska house discusses recent strengthening of that state’s longstanding loser-pays law [new at Point of Law]